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Buddhas concepts of Food


Vikas Khanna
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Buddhism and Food - A theory of being Vegetarian.

Ethical Eating, From Anthony Flanagan

"Eating is both a basic and essential activity. If we don't eat we die - simple as that. The question for ethics revolves around what choices we make about what we eat and what eating patterns we subscribe to. We don't have to go far to find advice - newspapers, magazines, websites, television and video, education classes...all compete for our attention. But what advice on food and eating did the Buddha give?

In the early scriptures known as the Pali Canon, the Buddha has a number of significant things to say about food.

. . . . "

The rest of the article can be found here:

http://buddhism.about.com/cs/ethics/a/Food.htm

[This post has been modifed by management to remove excessive text quoted from another site and to provide a link to the text and attribution to the author.]

Edited by Bux (log)
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  • 2 months later...

Interesting. Korea is a Buddhist/Taoist/Confucianist society. We are most famous for our pickles and bbq. But in fact the availability of bbq in Korea is a relatively new thing, it didn't start to boom untill after the Olympics. And even now the vast majority of Koreans in Korea are mostly vegetarian aside from fish and seafood. Lanscape and economics aside Korean vegetarianism as well as the philosophy of the overall diet is based on Buddhism and Taoism.

It's my limited understanding tha Buddhism did not take off (I know there is a better way to phrase this, but it escapes me right now as I am neglecting a demanding toddler to type this :biggrin: ) in India the way it did in her Eastern neighbors: China (Chan), Korea (Sohn) and Japan (Zen) for example.

So what then are the Buddhist influences in Indian vegetarianism?

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It's interesting that you say that the vast majority of Koreans are vegetarians except for eating fish and seafood (fishetarians?). Why, then, is there so much beef on menus in Korean restaurants in Queens and Manhattan? Their clientele is very largely Koreans.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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mostly vegetarian

I said mostly vegetarian. The economic boom in Korea didn't happen untill the after the Olympics. I'm 35, when I was very young it was a big deal for Koreans to even have one chicken a week. We weren't exactly poor either. Meat prices in Korea didn't become accessible to the general public untill about 7-10 years ago over there. Aside from a Korean bbq restaurant dining experience, meat is rarely the focal point of most Korean meals. Korean home meals are mostly vegetarian. And there's a lot more to Korean restaurants than bbq places. I've been to Korea over 100 times since the 70's and my parents took me on culinary tours of South Korea. I also went back to live there for a few years. Anyway, even with a tasting menu of house banchan specialties of 10 or more side dishes there will be only one, maybe two side dishes featuring meat. Usually a 2" cube of beef "cured" in soy or a small piece of braised beef.

Korean-Americans may eat more beef than Koreans in Korea, even so if they are eating Korean food on a regular basis, most of their meals won't focus on a meat dish or even have any meat.

EDIT: I can see where the confusion may lie in my original comment. I meant that the traditional Korean diet is mostly vegetarian, not that most Koreans are entirely vegetarian.

Edited by touaregsand (log)
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Could you be talking about something that may well be more a matter of wealth than ideology? Rural Terengganu Malays -- Muslims all -- in the 1970s ate rice, fish, lots of fruits and vegetables, and eggs. They rarely ate chicken, let alone goat or other ruminants, because poultry and meat were very expensive and usually involved slaughtering their own or buying one and slaughtering it. Nowadays, they are much wealthier and eat a lot of chicken and beef.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Could you be talking about something that may well be more a matter of wealth than ideology?

I see what you're saying. It's both, increased wealth and changing ideology. My grandmother was born into an almost entirely Buddhist society. My parent's generation was the first to convert to Christianity in large numbers. The last time I did research on the actual numbers was a few years ago, but Buddhists had a slight lead in terms of Christians and surprisingly Islam was growing very rapidly.

Regardless of the number of Christians and increased wealth the collective worldview of Koreans is shaped by Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. And these philosophies affect what we eat and how it's eaten. My generation is the first to actively break away from this. My parent's generation on the other hand can wax poetic on dietary "rules" or "superstitions" (I hesistate to use that word) regarding health and eating with the seasons that are based in the trinity of Korean philosophy.

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This is a subject I have spent too many hours reading and thinking about in relation to my own dietary & spiritual beliefs.

I have read before that buddha ate wild boar...(some people believe he died from eating spoiled meat) I also read that the scriptures were translated incorrectly and he didnt eat "hogs flesh" but the "food pigs love" (maybe truffles)

There is a very good book by Roshi Philip Kapleau, which I recommend to anyone interested in the topic in general, and specifically how it relates to Buddhist beliefs. It's called "Cherish All Life". It's a very thin book, but packed with things to think about.

He maintains that the sanskrit term was misinterpreted as "pig's flesh" instead of "pig's delight", which would be truffles, which, as everyone knows is a kind of mushroom. Plenty of poisonous mushrooms out there...

A Zen Buddhist teacher friend told me --on the question of meat-eating-- that the early buddhists took alms and essentially ate everything that was given. When buddhism reached China the act of seeking alms was frowned upon, Chinese believed that if you don't earn your way you don't eat, no free lunches there. So the early monks had to become gardeners in order to survive, they essentially became vegetarian in China.

In a book called "Fruits of Paradise, a vegetarian year-book" it has this quotation from the Buddha in The Lankavatara Sutra, :

"To avoid causing terror to living beings, let the Disciple refrain from eating meat...There may be some foolish people in the future whom will say that I permitted meat-eating and that I partook of meat myself, but...meat-eating in any form, in any manner, and in any place, is unconditionally prohibited for all."

My internal debate continues!

PS I had a terrible time eating on my last visit to Korea - it was very difficult with my limited knowledge of Korean language to find vegetarian meals. I ate a lot of "guk" and "bap". (Soup and Rice)

"Thy food shall be thy medicine" -Hippocrates

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Two quick thoughts:

It is my understanding that the current Dalai Lama is a big fan of lamb. When he visited Berkley - Alice Waters and her team was already to prepare a vegetarian meal for him - but was told he likes his lamb on the rare. They served it - he ate it.

On the other hand - under Chinese Bhuddism - not only are you to be vegetarian - but you are not to eat even garlic or onions lest you awaken thoughts of pleasure.

So - Bhuddism clearly embraces a range of eating choices.

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From 'Freedom In Exile', HH Dalai Lama stopped eating meat after he saw an animal being slaughtered which was later served for a dinner function at which he presided. Before this, he ate meat as much as any other person and without getting tangled in Westerner's unnerving and obsessive methods of analysing absolutely every word while totally missing the inherent point or meaning of the words.

Yaks, Humans and some plants are among the few species (edible) which can survive at altitude on Tibet high plateau, so it doesn't take too much imagination to figure out that although the people of Tibet are almost by default Buddhist, that they are also meat eaters. Nomadic tribespeople, followers of The Dalai Lama and Buddhists elsewhere hold that His Holiness is a reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara and often go to extreme lengths to meet him and practice his teachings. If that includes not eating meat because His Holiness chose not to then that is their choice but as many learned Buddhists will tell you, it is better to reach your own conclusions than to follow the words and actions of another, while using Buddhism as a method of discovering what it means for you. Make no mistake, Buddhism, including The Dalai Lama has it's own fair share of political agenda and if you look hard enough, you'll see the cracks. We are only human after all and enlightenment can take several thousand human rebirths to achieve which also depend upon your actions forming positive Karma. It's a little bit like if you haven't been a good boy/ girl this year, Santa won't bring you presents. Go figure.

A distinction must be made between ordained sangha (monks, nuns) and the general population of people who practise Buddhism in some form (Laeity) who have not taken special vows which restrict their conduct and in this case to not cause suffering to any 'sentient being'. The Pali Cannons and texts which hold the main Buddhist teachings of the root guru's and distingushed poets and teachers is way too vast to skim through and lift salient points from without taking years to understand their inherent meanings or without someone else entering into an out-quoting contest (which is sort of like a duel or standoff) in order to prove their superior learning. Ironically this is based in Ego and does little to aid understanding thereby creating the conditions or causing suffering to another sentient being.

Essentially, the only way to ensure that you don't cause suffering to another sentient being is to separate yourself from them and live the life of a hermit, which is precisely what some folk do though this is more about reducing the amount of sentient beings present though it's not only about that. A sentient being could be a flea, mosquito, elephant, butterfly etc so to kill one could be seen to be taking the life of a being who, as all beings which are not Human are reborn animals of a lower status than Humans are, your mother. The thing about killing an animal/ insect/ amoeba etc is that Buddhist teachings say they could once have been your mother so by killing one you are killing your mother. It's all about the inherently unproveable concept of 'rebirth' which means that your 'negative Karma' ripened at the time of your death thus causing you to be reborn in a different form often 'lower' than Human, for example, a lesser spotted bandicoot. As in the case of HH choosing not to eat meat when he did, he had been The Dalai Lama for many years up to that point, not including his previous incarnations ,many rebirths as a Human and had eaten meat since day one so you see, Buddhism is a process of discovery, a path which you follow alone, in your own time and at your own pace. You do not have to know everything that has ever been written or said about Buddhism to be a Buddhist as that is for Ordained sangha to deal with.

At the end of the day, religion is not a constant. It changes continuously to accommodate the needs of the times. Apart of it remains in the past and a part in the present. At times these may come as contradicting. I think people are just doing what is practical. His Holiness included.

"Thy food shall be thy medicine" -Hippocrates

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PS I had a terrible time eating on my last visit to Korea - it was very difficult with my limited knowledge of Korean language to find vegetarian meals. I ate a lot of "guk" and "bap". (Soup and Rice)

I'm assuming that you don't eat seafood. I can see why you would have a hard time if you don't speak or read Korean. Seafood and meat make their way into dishes in small amounts for flavor. This wasn't common at all say 30 years ago. It's a way to show off "prosperity" (remember we're confucianists also)

When buddhism reached China the act of seeking alms was frowned upon, Chinese believed that if you don't earn your way you don't eat, no free lunches there. So the early monks had to become gardeners in order to survive, they essentially became vegetarian in China.

Interesting. Buddhism entered Korea through China, but in Korea seeking alms is not frowned upon.

Westerner's unnerving and obsessive methods of analysing absolutely every word while totally missing the inherent point or meaning of the words.

This is why they talk endlessly about Koans. :laugh:

At the end of the day, religion is not a constant. It changes continuously to accommodate the needs of the times. Apart of it remains in the past and a part in the present. At times these may come as contradicting. I think people are just doing what is practical. His Holiness included.

This is the sort of belief/nonbelief I was raised with.

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From 'Freedom In Exile', HH Dalai Lama stopped eating meat after he saw an animal being slaughtered which was later served for a dinner function at which he presided.

Somewhere in my memory is a statement from the Dalai Lama that eating meat is allowed, as long as it is not killed for your consumption... Belly up to the counter @ McDonalds...A life is not taken for your personal benefit..

Though I have no citation to post here.. will search for one...

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Somewhere in my memory is a statement from the Dalai Lama that eating meat is allowed, as long as it is not killed for your consumption... Belly up to the counter @ McDonalds...A life is not taken for your personal benefit..

I haven't heard about the Dalai Lama saying this specifically. But I have heard about this before in certain Buddist spheres. If an animal dies a natural death, old age or tractor accident for instance, than it's okay to consume the meat.

I've seen monks in Korea with cell phones. :laugh:

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